By Zach Morrison @Zach_Morrison1 on March 24, 2014
The Pittsburgh Pirates' lineup is almost the same as it was in 2013. Unless the team trades for a first baseman, it looks like the only differences will be Andrew Lambo replacing Garrett Jones at first base as well as Clint Barmes and Jordy Mercer switching roles, with Mercer starting and Barmes being the backup. Once again, the Pirates will need to rely heavily on the pitching staff being dominant in 2014.
The Pirates have a center fielder playing left field. Starling Marte is an outstanding defender with great range and a very strong arm. He is the total package with defense, speed and developing power. In 2013, Marte hit .280/.343/.441 with a 121 wRC+. Marte also hit 12 home runs with 41 stolen bases.
Hitting second in the lineup, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is a decent contact hitter. He has above-average power to the gaps, leading to several extra base hits. I still believe Walker should stop switch-hitting and move permanently to a lefty. Walker hit .251/.339/.418 with a 114 wRC+ last season.
There isn't much that Andrew McCutchen can't do. The reigning MVP, McCutchen hit .317/.404/.508 with a 155 wRC+ in 2013. In 2012, he hit .327/.400/.553 with a 158 wRC+. In just five seasons, McCutchen has compiled a 27.1 fWAR.
The Pirates have one true power hitter in their lineup -- third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Unfortunately, Alvarez is also a terrible contact hitter, as he struck out in over 30 percent of his plate appearances in 2013, leading to a horrible on-base percentage. Despite a sub-.300 on-base percentage last season, his National League leading 36 home runs provide undeniable value.
Providing most of his value on defense, Russell Martin was basically average at the plate in 2013. He hit .226/.327/.377 with a 101 wRC+ last season. To make up for his low average, Martin did walk in 11.5 percent of his plate appearances, resulting in him having a more respectable on-base percentage.
We keep waiting for the trade for a first baseman that seems more unlikely as each day passes. At this point, it really looks like the Pirates will go with Andrew Lambo as the Opening Day first baseman. The biggest question surrounding Lambo is whether or not his 32 home run power in the minor leagues last season will translate to power at the MLB level in 2014.
Reports that the Pirates have been shopping Jose Tabata surfaced recently, but if he stays, he should get the majority of the plate appearances in right field. Tabata bounced back in 2013, hitting .282/.342/.429 with a 118 wRC+. The problem with Tabata is that he doesn't hit home runs, steal bases or play good defense. He is basically a singles and doubles hitter.
The Pirates have been having trade discussions with the Arizona Diamondbacks regarding Didi Gregorius, but if a trade doesn't happen, Jordy Mercer will be the primary shortstop. Mercer hit .285/.336/.435 with a 113 wRC+. Clint Barmes will serve as the backup, providing late-inning defense off the bench.
I have my doubts that Francisco Liriano will repeat his dominant season from 2013, but he is going to be the Opening Day starter for the Pirates nonetheless. Based on his track record of never having back-to-back good seasons, this may be a rough year for Liriano. Until he proves he can be good two years in a row, I will continue to fear a disappointing season from the lefty.
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